This time last season the Arizona Cardinals were sitting at 2-0 getting ready to play the Detroit Lions in a half empty home stadium, and coming in the favorite to a Lions team currently on an 11 game losing streak.
Ironically that game ended with now current kicker for the Cardinals Matt Prader nailing a short field goal to edge the narrow upset 26-23.
That was considered a trap game, after feeling high and mighty opening in San Fransisco followed by a 30 -15 win at home against the Washington Football team.
Now the Redbirds find themselves in that same familiar territory, a trap game of sorts heading into Jacksonville to play the Jaguars, who have not won a game since game one of last years.
After an impressive showing on the road in Tennessee in week one, the Cardinals home opener in game two against the high powered Minnesota Vikings came down to a missed field goal on the last play of the game and should have been the team’s first loss on the season.
The 2020 Cardinals had many flaws as all teams come into a new year, last year was very unprecedented with all of the covid rules that stopped teams from having training camp and pre-season games.
Coming into the 2021 season where things look vastly different, from jersey number changes on several key players to the new faces on both sides of the ball.
So far after two games on this season there is something different about this team on the field, in terms of looking like a formable offense and a defense that actually defends.
Third year quarterback Kyler Murray comes in this year with high expectations, and like last year got off to a hot MVP caliber start but faded away late due to a few injuries.
The offensive firepower that scored 38 and 34 points in its first two games, should have very little issue with a Jaguars team ranked last in almost every statistical category. We will see if this years Cardinals have matured enough to not come in taking this 17 straight loss Jaguars team lightly.
The game of football is a game of momentum, and once you obtain it, it’s hard to keep it on your side throughout an entire game. Momentum eventually sways back and forth when the right circumstances cause it to want to switch sides.
We watched Murray give a good Vikings team the momentum after going in the half with a record breaking 62 yard Prader field goal.
Kyler on his first throw of the second half threw a pick six that gave the Vikings the lead back, and killing all momentum they had built up to that point.
The first half of game three last year against the Lions, Murray obliged momentum with three interceptions that set the Lions up to stay in that game.
There were other factors that allowed a team on an 11 game losing streak to come in and get the upset victory, mostly on the defense’s inability to get key stops and control an old man Adrian Peterson in the run game.
This season game three match up features another team on a losing streak, but this team does not have the veterans that Lions team had, and come into the season with a rookie quarterback at the helm.
Cardinals are heavily favored to win this game on the road, but east coast games were not their strong point in the pass.
Rookie quarterbacks in the past have burned the Cardinals in trap games.
Pittsburgh Steelers Landry Jones in 2015 come to mind, also last year, losing 34-31 to Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
So what has to happen to prevent the Cardinals from repeating history of squandering the opportunity to start 3-0?
First things is : Respect your opponent.
The Cardinals must come in with the mindset that they are playing another NFL team, which is a team with professional players like themselves. The saying is “ they get paid to” and any sign of disrespect can jump up and bite very swiftly.
Games can turn quickly once the other team plays with an attitude that they have been taken lightly, then that starts the snow ball effect that is very difficult to stop.
Second Thing is: Be prepared and disciplined
This task falls more on Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury, having his team mentally prepared to play against two opponents on Sunday the Jaguars and themselves.
It is vital for Kliff to not over do it on his play calling, with plays that are way too cute.
Games like this require swift punishment, meaning just line up and show them you’re the better team upfront on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
As tempting as it may be to pass the ball all over the field, there is nothing more demoralizing than to eat a heavy helping of pig skin down the throat early and often.
Third Thing: Kyler Must remain sharp
Quarterback Kyler Murray has to stay on the pace he is on, not from a numbers prospective but from a maturity standpoint. Checking in and out of his own plays recognizing what the defense is doing is the sole reason for this years hot start.
The natural gifts in his ability are just icing on the cake, and if he remains calm and continue to display high command of the offense, he will be able to pick apart a porous defense like Jacksonville.
To do that of course means take care of the football, even though the Jags are coming in on a 17 game losing streak, turning the ball over giving them a short field will only build their confidence making the game closer than it should be.
Forth Things : JJ Watt continues to Dominate teams in that division
JJ Watt has dominated the teams in the AFC South over his career, and his numbers against his old division are astounding.
Watt recorded 45 out of 92 of his sacks against the AFC South division.
Of course that can be due to the weak division it was over the years, but nevertheless he was a destructive force that could not be stopped.
JJ averaged 1.18 sacks per game vs the South division, and only 0.71 against non-AFC South teams.
No secret that division feared him greatly, so he must summon that magic in this weeks matchup, and get himself in the sack category for the first time as a Cardinal.
The Cardinals defense has been a little up and down, but if both Watt and Jones can be on point at the same time this will make this match-up no contest.
FiFth Things: Make the Rookies feel you
Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray came in together as rookies in their respective positions, much like Urban Myer and Trevor Lawrence.
These two must go through their rookie lumps and get a hard lesson in transitioning from the college game to the pro’s.
Kliff cannot get out coached by the rookie Head Coach, and must have a professional answer to every college style play call that Myer will throw at him.
Showing from his own experience, most of those college methods just doesn’t work in the NFL.
Murray is three years in and have more weapons at his disposal than that of Lawrence, and should out play the rookie just on experience alone.
The Cardinals defense should make it very difficult on Lawrence and not allow him to get comfortable all game.
When this game ends and the teams exchange pleasantries, Lawrence should have plenty of questions for Kyler as to what this league is all about and his experiences thus far.
All in all this can be a big trap game, but if the Cardinals have grown to the next level then we should witness them demolish this young Jaguars team early and often.
They definitely do not want to be the team that broke the current 17 game losing streak.